Posted by: mel | January 3, 2010

The week in review : Chinese products’ threats

Jakarta Post | Opinion | 3 January 2010

During the Christmas holidays, cities in North Sumatra, Papua, North Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara and Maluku were inundated by homecoming travelers as the provinces have significant Christian, Protestant and Catholic populations. While Christmas is a very important event in the Christian calender, perhaps only few Indonesians realize that for Christians of Batak ethnicity, especially those living in North Sumatra, New Year is celebrated much more than Christmas itself. Even Batak Christians, who no longer live in the province, still maintain the tradition.

But if we compare the celebration to Idul Fitri, Christians from this ethnic group regard New Year as “equivalent” to the Islamic holy day. At 12 p.m. on Dec. 31, they gather at home for a thanksgiving prayer, while parents and elders use the opportunity to give advice to their children or younger relatives.

This tradition is reportedly inherited from Europe. German missionary Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen was the first person to introduce Christianity to the Bataks. Many may wonder why this tradition does not apply in Maluku and other predominantly Christian regions; perhaps the influence of the Dutch was stronger.

We have high hopes this year will be better than last. Democracy prospered with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono winning a landslide victory in the July presidential election, securing support from over 60 percent of voters to lead the country for another five-year term until 2014.

The President, however, should consider the warning issued by scholar Anies Baswedan. Anies, the rector of Paramadina University, cited the President’s indecisiveness as one of the main sources of the ongoing political brouhaha. Yudhoyono is often dubbed as Mr. Doubtful, while Vice President Boediono is often described as Mr. Cautious. Yudhoyono loves to portray himself as the victim of injustice by his political opponents. It was ridiculous that he used his Christmas message to defend himself from his critics, including scholar and former journalist George Junus Aditjondro.

The launching of Aditjondro’s Cikeas Octopus book on Wednesday again highlighted the consequences of the President’s attitude. The launch was marred by an incident between George and Ramadhan Pohan. Ramadhan, a legislator from Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, strongly denied committing any wrongdoing as alleged by George in his book. George may have to face court prosecution for this incident.


Last year (last week), the acquittal of Prita Mulyasari by the Tangerang District Court from all defamation charges against the Omni International Hospital was a kind of “consolation prize” from the court for hundreds of thousands of Indonesians – some even say millions – that donated their coins to Prita. In a separate civil case, Banten High Court ordered Prita to pay a Rp 204 million fine to the private hospital. Prita reportedly received at least Rp 800 million. She pledged to use the money to help victims of injustice.

The overwhelming public support for Prita is a perfect reflection of widespread distrust not only in our judiciary system, but also of the country’s health care providers. The attitude of the hospital and its doctors were publicly perceived as arrogant. It is not hard to find people who have had traumatic experiences with doctors and hospitals. Doctors here are very reluctant to listen to their patients, perhaps because they assume that doctors know precisely what is best for their patients, while patients seem to have no right to express themselves.

Prita’s experience shows us how unimportant patients are in relation to doctors and hospitals, although the survival of hospitals and the welfare of the doctors depend entirely on the money of those seeking medical treatment. Many Indonesians who have experience with overseas doctors and hospitals testify that the quality of Indonesian doctors is actually not below doctors in Malaysia or Singapore. But in total, based on the quality of medical treatment they receive, they feel much more satisfied with treatment from foreign doctors than from our own.


The Free Trade Agrement (FTA) between the 10-member Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China will be effective as of Friday (Jan.1). It is the third-largest free trade area in the world after the European Economic Area and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). ASEAN members that have huge natural resources such as Indonesia hope that they can boost their commodity exports to China. But as reported by this newspaper in the last few weeks, local industrialists, manufacturers and trade associations have screamed for help from the government, saying the country’s real sector will totally collapse unless the government is able to provide more protection for them.

But it is a case of too little too late.

The business sector should have lodged their complaints a year ago, during the negotiation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). What was wrong then? Was it true the government was not transparent to the country’s stakeholders during the negotiations?

But even without the ACFTA, Chinese products will continue to flood the country, not just because the prices are much cheaper and the quality is also often better, but also because many products from China are smuggled into Indonesia. Smuggling practices are so blatant with many government agencies and officials involved, that the activities perhaps can no longer be described as smuggling.

Who should we blame then?

– Kornelius Purba


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